Newspaper article International New York Times

Karzai Talks about Legacy, Vowing That He's Done ; Stream of Official Visitors Shows Continuing Pull of Afghanistan's Ex-Leader

Newspaper article International New York Times

Karzai Talks about Legacy, Vowing That He's Done ; Stream of Official Visitors Shows Continuing Pull of Afghanistan's Ex-Leader

Article excerpt

A steady stream of official visitors to the former Afghanistan leader's home during a rare interview shows he still exerts some pull.

Hamid Karzai, the former president of Afghanistan, wants to set a few things straight.

First, he is not considering a run for his old job in 2019. "No, no, sir, not at all," he said in a rare interview with The New York Times on Sunday, the first he has given the newspaper's Kabul bureau in seven years.

Second, he is not taking an active role in Afghan politics or governance, despite the steady stream of high-ranking visitors to his house that day, including sitting officials in President Ashraf Ghani's government.

Third, he is not going to criticize Mr. Ghani's coalition government even though, as he pointed out, it still has not appointed all of its ministers 10 months after inauguration. "It will not be proper for me to express my opinion publicly."

"I have done my time," he said. "I was president for 14 years. I want this country to get younger leaders, with a different vision."

Still, the former president's public profile has only been increasing at a time when Mr. Ghani's government is both struggling and staking out almost polar-opposite stances from Mr. Karzai's on several major issues. They include giving American commanders a freer hand on night raids and airstrikes, cooperating more closely with the Pakistani military, and marginalizing northern power brokers whom Mr. Karzai had studiously courted.

But in the interview, Mr. Karzai went to pains to insist that although he was closely following the issues, and certainly had things to say about them, he was not trying to run any government again.

That he granted the interview in the first place was something of a shift, after years of rejecting such requests. One of Mr. Karzai's last acts in office was to approve an order ejecting a Times reporter, Matthew Rosenberg, from the country after he wrote an article about the possible creation of an interim government in the midst of the country's deepening political crisis last summer. (One of Mr. Ghani's first acts, conversely, was to allow Mr. Rosenberg to return.)

On Saturday, a new organization sponsored by Afghan news media owners, the Radio and Television Union, made Mr. …

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